Why do most Malaysian coffee shops brew their coffee using a long coffee bag?

Why do most Malaysian coffee shops brew their coffee using a long coffee bag

Cover Image via: Malay Mail Online

Drinking coffee is one of the cornerstones to being a Malaysian. In Malaysia, whenever a new shopping area is built, the first shop that would open first is usually a coffee shop ( Kopitiam). These traditional shops often offer a variety of delicious food along with an aromatic cup of coffee. This combination is the breakfast choice for an average Malaysian.

In the hearts of Malaysians, there is a popular stereotype that people who open coffee shops are the Hainanese. Nonetheless, after some digging around, it is discovered that modern coffee shop owners are not necessarily Hainanese. But, how did this mindset came into being? Is it because Hainanese coffee is so luscious that it blew everyone’s mind?


The origins of Hainanese and their coffee

Both Hainanese and coffee had been two peas in a pot since the nineteenth century. In that period, life in southern China is grueling, which resulted in a migration of the Hainanese to Malaysia (known as Malaya back then) to make a living, Later on, these Hainanese migrants in Malaysia were exposed to the habit of coffee drinking by foreigners and decided to bring this culture back in their hometown. Moreover, the Hainanese even brought back some coffee beans to be planted in Hainan Island. Over the years, Hainan Island gradually becomes the main planting site of Chinese coffee beans and Hainanese coffee started taking off from there.

The reason of how Hainan Island became the main producer of Chinese coffee is largely attributed to the Hainanese bringing coffee culture back to their hometown.  Other than that, the island’s climate and the environment are optimal for coffee planting. The island perineal temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius and has abundant rainfall. Furthermore, there is no cold season, making it suitable for planting ‘’Robusta’’ beans. Coffee produced on Hainan Island is of exceptional quality and contains a rich and mellow taste. At that time, the coffee was very popular among leaders of China, which made Hainan Fushan coffee an instant hit.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the Hainanese migrated en masse to Singapore and Malaysia. During that period, most of the Chinese from Nanyang are engaged in rubber planting. But, when the twentieth century swung by, priced of rubber freefall during the Great Depression which caused the Chinese to abandon the rubber industry and ventured to other businesses. This time, a large number of Hainanese chose to open coffee shops, which started the legend of Hainanese coffee in Malaysia.


The uniqueness of Hainanese coffee

The prominent characteristics of Hainanese coffee lie in its fragrance, which greatly set it apart from other Western blends. Throughout the preparation process, the baking method of Hainanese coffee differs from Western-style coffee. While baking, sugar, butter, corn, sesame and other materials are mixed together and ‘fried’. With this, the coffee is not only aromatic, but there is a hint of caramel along with the additional sweetness from the corn. No wonder Hainanese coffee has a relatively richer taste!

Hainan coffee uses a very different brewing method as opposed to Western-style coffee. The most indispensable equipment for brewing coffee in Hainan is a long coffee bag and a long-snouted coffee pot. After adding the coffee powder into the bag, it is soaked with hot water in the coffee pot to brew.  It is then filtered multiple times to reach the desired consistency. The coffee bag would remain soaked in the pot until the last cup of coffee is sold. Traditional Hainan coffee is served in porcelain cups and the shop owner ensures that each cup is pre-warmed. Malaysians love to use Hibiscus brand coffee cups and saucers which bring presents the coffee in an antique manner.


Special coffee drinking methods

The Nanyang people drinks coffee in a unique way, that is, pouring a cup of well-stirred coffee onto its saucer before drinking it. Just when and where did this drinking method come from? All that we can say is, it is an act being passed down after mirroring the drinking styles of our parents. After much contemplation, later, it is discovered that hot coffee could be quickly cooled down after pouring it onto the saucer. Thinking back, this drinking habit may reflect the hustle of customers back then. When a cup of hot coffee is served, the best way to finish it quickly without scalding your tongue is to pour it onto the saucer.

Although fewer people maintained this coffee drinking habit today, drinking Hainan coffee from its saucer still remain as my personal preference of enjoying it!

Translated from: 为什么马来西亚大多数咖啡店里卖的都是以长长的咖啡袋泡制而成的海南咖啡?

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